Estimating the community prevalence, child traits, and maternal risk factors of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) from a random sample of school children

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2021 Oct 1;227:108918. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2021.108918. Epub 2021 Aug 2.


Objective: Utilize a random sample to estimate the prevalence, child traits, and maternal risk for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) in a Southeastern United States county.

Methods: From all first-grade students (n = 1073) a simple random sample was drawn, and 32 % (n = 231) were consented. All 231 children were examined for dysmorphology and growth, 84 were tested and rated on neurobehavior, and 72 mothers were interviewed for maternal risk.

Results: Significant differences (α = .05) between the physical traits of children diagnosed with FASD and the entire sample were height, weight, head circumference, body mass index, and total dysmorphology scores, and all three cardinal features of fetal alcohol syndrome: palpebral fissure length, smooth philtrum, and narrow vermilion. Intellectual function and inhibition were not significantly different between FASD and typically-functioning children, but two executive function measures and one visual/spatial measure approached significance (α = .10). Three behavioral measures were significantly worse for the FASD group: parent-rated problems of communication, daily living, and socialization. Significant maternal risk factors reported were postpartum depression, frequency of drinking, and recovery from problem drinking. The prevalence of FASD was 71.4 per 1,000 or 7.1 %. This rate falls clearly within the prevalence range identified in eight larger samples of other communities in the Collaboration on FASD Prevalence (CoFASP) study in four regions of the United States.

Conclusion: Careful and detailed clinical evaluation of children from small random samples can be useful for estimating the prevalence and traits of FASD in a community.

Keywords: Alcohol use; Children with FASD; Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders; Maternal risk traits for FASD; Prenatal alcohol use; Prevalence; Women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Female
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Mothers
  • Pregnancy
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Schools